Posts Tagged ‘U2’

Power of a lyric - Love and need

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

I love you ‘cos I need to, not because I need you. I love you ‘cos I understand that God has given me your hand – U2, Luminous Times

I was walking through the café at work the other day and heard this U2 song playing over the airwaves. The next line of the song says “hold on to love”. Love is the only force that triumphs over anything. It often comes across as weakness but it succeeds where others perpetually fail.

Much of what we call love though is really an emotional neediness which comes across as being nice, but is actually designed to protect us from rejection. I know this because I do it all the time. As I realise this more I realise how committed I am to not experiencing the pain of someone not loving me in return. My good deeds are often cloaked in the convincing veneer of niceness. And I am further blinded to this when people feed back to me about how nice I have been to them.

True love comes out of a deep conviction that love does indeed transform an enemy into a friend, as Abraham Lincoln said so long ago. It comes out of a deep conviction that love is the most powerful force in the universe. That’s why the words of this song are so powerful.

The paradox of true love though is that there is a genuine neediness about it. True love loves because of a human need to live this way; it is the way we are wired. At the same time, true love does not need the other in a negative self-protective way to boost its own ego or identity. It is free of all that; it is free to truly love the other no matter the response. If the response is hatred, true love continues to love; if the response is indifference or apathy, true love continues to love; and if the response is love reciprocated, true love still continues to love.

As I write I am reminded of two famous people who both talked and walked this attitude in their lives. I speak of course of Martin Luther King Jr and Mother Teresa. Dr King talked often of the power of redemptive, suffering love, and Mother Teresa has the following words attributed to her, which were apparently written on the wall of her home for children in Kolkata, India. Even if they were not written by her, they fully encapsulate the life she lived:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Hold on to love. Cultivate it, learn it, and most of all, ask God for it, because we simply don’t have in us the capacity to live a life of love without the Spirit of Jesus living in us and guiding us. He will redeem the ugliness of our self-protective neediness into a love that only the Divine can empower us with.

Power of a lyric - Reflection, information, obsession and Jesus

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

“All the books you never read, just started; all the meals you rushed, never tasted”
- U2, Falling at Your Feet

I lament our loss of reflection in this information age. We are the most informed generation in history but we are losing the art of reflection. We are constantly wired - and I don’t mean just connected to an iPod or iPhone, but emotionally wired. When we are constantly consuming information, we are no longer being still and thinking about the deeper issues of life. Everything is rushed. We are overwhelmed with choice and we no longer feel at peace with ourselves. We have everything at our fingertips but don’t know anymore how to be. We think we have to always be doing something; we feel guilty when we aren’t being ‘productive’; and we wonder if we’re being lazy when we’re lying around on a Sunday afternoon.

Linked to this loss of reflection is our culture’s obsession with experience. We have a terrifying fear of missing out. We are the addict who thinks we cannot do without more and better. We talk about things being boring or cool. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe in leading a boring life. The life of following Jesus is anything but boring; it is counter-cultural and filled with opportunities. But what this means is that we live a life that is other-centred and not based on how we feel at a certain time. A life of other-centredness is one that doesn’t have to look for the next fix because it is inherently satisfying. It is borne out of a deep knowing that we are loved by God and therefore don’t need to spend our days and years trying to prove ourselves to others. We are free to love and serve our fellow human beings. This is what it is to be a follower of Jesus. This is life, and deep down we know it is the right way to live.

The way of Jesus gives the most satisfaction, the most depth and the greatest enjoyment of life. This is anything but boring, but it is not a life that seeks to avoid boredom as an end in itself. It is a life that has a higher end; a life that has found something better. For, if we do not find what we are really looking for, we will inevitably go back to the life we lived before, and, such being human nature, we will pick up where we left off and it will be worse than before. Jesus spoke of this when He told about the house from which a demon has departed but then has other demons more evil than the first one come back and make the house worse than before (Matthew 12: 43-45).

Life in the information age promises so much but delivers so little. We are still dependent beings. The fact of human nature is that we simply cannot live without outside help. We are created with a God-shaped hole and, as St Augustine and others down through the ages have said, we are forever restless until we find our hope in Christ. No wonder Edward Mote could write the words of that famous hymn back in the 1830s, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”.

We are indeed in trouble when our information age gives us so much to take in but leaves us with so little time to reflect on it. The Christian message is one which offers a way out of our malaise; a way out of the self-centred slavery to which we are addicted. The way to life is to fall at the feet of the One who is Life itself; Jesus, who says to our weary and information-burdened age, “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest”. It is when we reflect on this that we come back to reality and find the life that is truly life, where we share with those people down through the centuries who have had their lives unburdened and their hopes transformed.

Some more words from Falling at Your Feet sum it up eloquently:

all the information
all the big ideas
all the radio waves
electronic seas
how to navigate
how to simply be
to know when to wait
this plain simplicity
in whom shall I trust
how might I be still
teach me to surrender
not my will, Thy will

Thoughts on control

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

U2’s song Moment of Surrender has a line which simply says “to be released from control”. It is yet another line from a U2 song which has hit me like a brick.

Just about everything we do in life is designed to keep us in control of our lives. But the life of the cross is about relinquishing control to the only one who is ultimately trustworthy. Oh to be released from control on that day when we will have new bodies and new minds in the fully consummated kingdom of God.

I realised this morning that until my dying day I will be forever having to surrender the desire, no, the demand, to control my own life. CS Lewis described himself at his conversion as the most reluctant convert in all England. I think many of us can relate to that. Through the years of our lives we are constantly backing away from our hell instead of marching on our knees into heaven.

The paradox of the way of Jesus is that life is found only when we die to ourselves. The life of surrender is the life if victory – victory in defeat as Irish singer Sammy Horner puts it. God help me to surrender all to You every day.

Power of a lyric: Window In The Skies

Friday, May 7th, 2010

‘I’ve got no shame…oh can’t you see what love has done?’ - U2, Window in the Skies

Therapist John Bradshaw talks about the concept of toxic shame, which arises out of the core belief that you are a bad person rather than a loved person who still tends to go their own way.

Bradshaw uses this concept in relation to the addict who hates their destructive behaviour but is unable to stop it. He then goes on to talk about the inner child and how that child has been deeply wounded and has never grown up. And so we have, in our society today, many children walking around in adult’s bodies. Toxic shame is destructive and must be distinguished from healthy shame. The latter is born of a healthy conscience which lets us know when we have done something destructive. Some might also use the term ‘convicted’ as in when we are convicted of sin.

The huge difference between healthy shame and toxic shame is that when something destructive is done, toxic shame concludes, “I’m a bad person”, whereas healthy shame says “I’ve done the wrong thing but I’m still loved”. The difference lies deep down in the human psyche; it has to do with our core beliefs about who we are. The person filled with toxic shame has a core belief that “I am not worth loving and so therefore it makes sense that I would take part in behaviour that is destructive, both to others and to myself”. The person who is able to feel healthy shame when they do something destructive has a core belief that they are loved unconditionally, and the fact that they occasionally do the wrong thing does not take away from that.

The person filled with toxic shame is much more likely to participate in behaviours that result in a downward spiral of destruction even though they don’t want to. The prime example of this is the addict who desperately wants to stop but finds themselves absolutely powerless to do so.They are trapped in a cycle where their behaviour confirms in their own mind that they are hopeless, so they may as well act like it. So then they act like it, which further confirms their core belief, and so the cycle continues.

The person with such a core belief is also trapped in another sense. They are trapped in the sense that they are unable to focus on anything outside of themselves. Their lives are focused ever inward and they are unable to give. Thus they are self-centred in the extreme. They often want to be a different person, but because they are trapped in the cycle of self, they are never able to realise their full potential. They are therefore despondent and miserable, without joy, unable to think clearly, and riddled with anxiety.

The only cure for the deep wound in the human heart is having a deep knowing of divine forgiveness. John Smith said many years ago that the effect of acceptance of forgiveness on society is much more powerful than any social welfare theory.

Knowing that you are a loved child of God quite literally makes all the difference in the world. It frees you from the bondage of self; it frees you to be able to give and to love, and thereby find the life you’ve always been looking for. The old words of the 1st letter of John are true - we love because He first loved us.

In a society where we are (literally) sold the message that having more stuff will cure the ache within, where the idea of ‘retail therapy’ is believed by millions, the words of Jesus have more relevance than ever - “what will it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your very self?”.

May you know the life that is truly life; a life of service of others in the name of Jesus. Perfect love drives out all fear, all anxiety, and all toxic shame. Never again need we resort to acts which hurt others and which in turn hurt ourselves. If the Son will set you free, you will be free indeed. We have been given grace upon grace. Freely we have received, so we can freely give, all because He first loved us.

The community of the forgiven

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

I love the idea of the church being a community of the forgiven. The truth which is bandied about - and which I used to see on bumper stickers - of Christians being ‘not perfect, just forgiven’ makes me cringe because it is so often seen as an excuse for our own hypocrisy. At the same time however, there is a freedom and attractiveness about the fact that we can be part of a community that genuinely cares. Larry Crabb calls it the safest place on earth and that’s exactly what the church is called to be.

This is the ideal vision of people of faith - a place where you can be yourself, warts and all, and you are still accepted for who you are because if you have done some bad stuff in your life, then we have too, and chances are it is worse.

A community of care is a place of forgiveness, and forgiveness is healing. I am reminded of U2’s White as Snow in which Bono sings,

‘Once I knew there was a love divine. Then came a time I thought it knew me not. Who can forgive forgiveness when forgiveness is not? Only the lamb, as white as snow’

As individuals, purity is our ultimate destiny, and we will never be satisfied until we’re there. I don’t mean purity just in the sense of sexual behaviour, although that is a crucial part of purity. By purity, I mean a Christlikeness, having the mind of Christ within us day by day. While we’ll never reach that state this side of death, He still came that we might have life and have it to the full. That life has already begun. When we surrender our lives to Christ, asking that His will be done and not our own, it is then that we become a part of, as distinct from ‘apart from’, and we can hopefully experience, in a loving community, a little bit more of what it is to be part of the community of the forgiven.

Power of a lyric: Love Rescue Me

Friday, February 12th, 2010

‘Love rescue me, come forth and speak to me. Raise me up and don’t let me fall. No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me. Love rescue me…I’m here without a name, in the palace of my shame…Love rescue me’ - U2, Love Rescue Me

Most, if not all, of what we say is spoken out of the deep recesses of our being. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. We are only so good at hiding what is really going on inside. Those with eyes to see however, and with hearts to care, will notice and gently bring to the surface the deep things that are troubling us. We are privileged if we have such friends in our lives.

In this haunting ballad, Bono seems to sing of a deep need for redemption. We are adept at bringing across an image of togetherness, of security. Our greatest fear is that we will be exposed in all our ugliness and as a result rejected - discarded on the scrapheap of life. Every day we bring across an image that all is well with our souls. The reality though is that, as we put on our make-up and get on the bus to struggle through another day, the way we look on the outside often betrays the reality of how we feel on the inside. Struggling through the tiredness as we head towards the office, we know that deep down there has to be more than this.

But love offers a way out, indeed offers and - amazingly - provides a life beyond ourselves. Salvation is the restoration of the image of God inside us, and the glory of God is a human being fully alive, to quote some words of long ago.

The good news is that, as in the last verse of this song, and is in many of the Psalms, all is well that ends well. We can turn the first verse of this song around and sing ‘Love rescued me, came forth and spoke to me, raised me up and didn’t let me fall’. Here’s how U2 put it: